India! Or, as their tourism slogan has it: !ndia. How does one capture such a kaleidoscope of history, religion, culture and people in just a few words?
Let’s start with India’s own name for itself: Bharat. Astute readers will recognize in this the name of the epic “Mahabharata,” or the “great tale of the Bharata dynasty,” the Bharatas being the family to which the main players in the epic belong.
Whence, then, “India?” It is a word coined first in Greek, coming through Latin into English and other languages, and derived from the name of the Indus River, that name itself coming from the Sanskrit word “sindhu,” meaning simply “river.” The population which once thrived there, the third-millennium B.C. urban Indus Valley Civilization, was one of the world’s earliest.
A quick look at the map shows India projecting from the Asian continent. In fact, it occupies most of what is called a “subcontinent.” The Indian Ocean is to its south, the Arabian Sea to its southwest, and the Bay of Bengal to its southeast.
To the north (from west to east) are Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bhutan. Myanmar and Bangladesh lie to the east. The world’s seventh-largest country by area (after Russia, Canada, China, the U.S., Brazil and Australia), it is the second-most populous country (after China).
It has given birth to a number of major and a plethora of less-prominent religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. It has also proven fertile ground for such non-native religions as Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Baha’i faith.
The country has been more-or-less unified several times, under (among others) the Maurya, Gupta, Mughal and Maratha empires; between times it was dissolved into smaller kingdoms again. India as we see it today was once largely under the control of the British East India Company, and then the British crown, until independence was attained in 1947 thanks largely to the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
Alas, we have only scratched the surface of this fascinating and complex country.
Which word above means:
1. overabundance; excess
2. sticking out
3. invented; first stated
4. a toy with changing views of bits of glass, creating a constantly changing pattern
5. succeeded; prospered
6. clever; seeing clearly
7. able to grow things well
8. from where
9. came apart
10. long poem about heroes